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Comcast eyeing T-Mobile? Not so likely, it seems

With Comcast uninterested, satellite TV provider Dish remains the most likely suitor for the wireless carrier.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere might soon have Comcast to answer to. Lori Grunin/CNET

Comcast isn't interested in T-Mobile after all.

Comcast, the nation's top cable provider, and T-Mobile's parent, Deutsche Telekom, were supposedly exploring the possibility of a deal to buy the US carrier business, German publication Manager Magazin reported Wednesday.

But Comcast isn't interested in acquiring the nation's fourth-largest wireless carrier, according to a person familiar with the cable provider's thinking.

A tie-up between Comcast and T-Mobile would have combined the top cable provider in the US with one of the "big four" wireless carriers, and is seen by analysts as the most logical combination. Comcast, which provides cable television, Internet and phone service across the US, has 27 million subscribers. T-Mobile, which provides cellular service, has 39 million customers.

Acquiring T-Mobile would have given Comcast a foothold in the wireless industry, which has seen massive growth over the last several years as people to increasingly turn to mobile phones -- not just for making calls, but also to get their entertainment, from streaming music to YouTube videos and even television shows. For Deutsche Telekom, a sale would allow it to finally unburden itself of T-Mobile -- something it has been trying to do for years.

A successful acquisition attempt would be a change of pace for the two US companies. In 2011, AT&T announced plans to merge with T-Mobile for $39 billion and become the dominant player in the US wireless industry. By the end of that year, however, AT&T nixed the plan after facing significant criticism from lawmakers who saw the deal as potentially dangerous for customers and the wireless industry.

A similar scenario played out over the last year after Comcast inked a $45 billion deal to join forces with Time Warner Cable. The deal would have created a giant cable company with 30 million subscribers and 50 percent ownership of the US cable industry. But the Charter-Time Warner Cable tie-up was abandoned in April after it became clear that regulators would scuttle the acquisition. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, whose office took the lead in investigating the combination, lauded the decision, saying the merged company "would have posed an unacceptable risk to competition and innovation."

With Comcast uninterested, Dish remains the most likely suitor for T-Mobile.

Earlier this month, a report surfaced saying that Dish was in talks with Deutsche Telekom to acquire T-Mobile -- a move that could fend off a possible threat from T-Mobile rival AT&T, which is acquiring satellite-TV provider DirecTV in a deal valued at $48.5 billion. But like both Comcast and T-Mobile, Dish is no stranger to squelched deals: In 2013, it lost a bid to acquire Sprint, which ended up being sold to Japan-based SoftBank for $21.6 billion.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere has been generally well-disposed toward Dish, saying in 2013 that as he looks to the "medium to long term, I'm intrigued by Dish's vision." Earlier this year, after Dish tried to acquire wireless spectrum in a bid to possibly develop its own wireless network, Legere again had positive things to say about the satellite company.

"We look at their spectrum portfolio, and video, as a fascinating idea to consider," Legere said during T-Mobile's fourth-quarter conference call in February, addressing the long-standing rumors that Dish may be interested in acquiring or partnering with T-Mobile. "I think Dish offers a great opportunity for the country and possibly T-Mobile."

Ultimately, Deutsche Telekom will decide the fate of T-Mobile, and according to Manager Magazin, Dish may find itself coming up short yet again. The publication's sources say that Comcast's strong financial standing would allow it to acquire all of T-Mobile, taking the carrier entirely off Deutsche Telekom's hands. A deal with Dish or some of the other companies the German carrier is speaking with could require it to continue to own at least part of T-Mobile -- a prospect it doesn't find appealing.

Deutsche Telekom was not available to comment. T-Mobile did not provide comment.

(Via Reuters)

Update, 2:01 p.m. PT: To clarify that Comcast is not interested in the deal